NFL Nation: Russ Brandon

The following is Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon's statement on the death of owner Ralph Wilson:
"I speak for everyone within the Bills organization when I say that we are all suffering a deep and profound sadness with the passing of our Hall of Fame owner Mr. Wilson. We have lost our founder, our mentor, our friend, and this is a very difficult time for us all. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Mary, his daughters Christy and Dee Dee [Edith], his niece Mary and his entire family.

[+] EnlargeBuffalo Bills
Mike RodakFlags were lowered to half-mast at the Buffalo Bills' facility in Orchard Park, N.Y., Tuesday in honor of the late Ralph Wilson.
Mr. Wilson had a relentless passion, a deep love for his Buffalo Bills, the City of Buffalo and the National Football League. He also loved the Bills fans and all of the people of Western New York who embraced the Bills.

This incredible man was the personification of the Buffalo Bills. His life was grit, determination and resolve. He was bigger than life in many ways and yet he was the everyday man, driving his Ford Taurus to the local store and greeting everyone as they called out "Hi Ralph!" He will be greatly missed by those in our community whose lives he touched.

Mr. Wilson was a man of true integrity, charisma and a hero in every sense of the word. His service to his country in the South Pacific in World War II is well documented. He was a pioneer in the American Football League. He was instrumental in forging the merger between the AFL and the NFL. Mr. Wilson will long be remembered as a man who was true to his word and did countless acts of kindness and generosity for so many, while never seeking the limelight in doing so.

More than anything, he wanted to bring a Super Bowl Championship to Western New York. He wanted it for the players, the coaches and the franchise. But mostly he wanted it for the fans. No owner has wanted a title more for these reasons than Mr. Wilson. In the end, he was extremely proud that his Bills are the only team to have played in four consecutive Super Bowls.

For those of us fortunate to have worked for him, we'll miss his kindness, his insight, his leadership, but mostly his sense of humor. He possessed the unique ability to turn a negative into a positive.

Our organization, our league, our community has lost a great man.

Right now all of us are absorbing this tremendous personal loss. We are performing our day-to-day functions as we normally would. We understand our fans' curiosity in wanting to know what the future holds for our organization and that will be addressed in the near future. But at this time, we are committed to honoring the life and legacy of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the man who delivered NFL football to Buffalo."

Bills venture into the unknown

January, 6, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills interviewed high-profile coaching candidates Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt, Mike McCoy and Chip Kelly. But they settled on a lesser-known commodity Sunday in former University of Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.

Is Marrone the right choice for Buffalo? Expect plenty of early skepticism.

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Is Doug Marrone the right choice for the Bills?

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Marrone would not have been my first pick from the batch we just mentioned. The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999, the NFL's longest drought. Bills fans are a tortured bunch who need a big name to re-energize the fan base.

The Bills failed to make a splash with Marrone, who was only 25-25 at Syracuse. Based on comments I received this past week, nabbing Kelly would have been more appealing to Bills fans if they wanted a college coach.

However, a low-profile hire doesn't always mean it's a bad hire. It simply means the Bills better be right in choosing a coach who wasn't at the top of any NFL team's wish list. Marrone’s .500 record in college and Buffalo’s poor track record with head coaches makes it a risky choice. The Bills will either look smarter than everyone else or dumber than everyone else in two or three years based on Marrone's performance.

You also knew what Smith and Whisenhunt brought to the table. Both coaches led their former teams to the Super Bowl and multiple playoff appearances. This is what Buffalo is striving for as an organization, and there was comfort in taking the safe pick.

But Buffalo took the retread route twice in the past seven years with Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey. Both choices were disasters. So the Bills deserve some credit for trying something different.

The Bills have a 7-10-year stadium lease, a new president in Russ Brandon and Marrone as their next head coach. This is truly a new beginning in Buffalo. Marrone will get the next several years to prove he is the right choice for the Bills.

Buffalo’s next step is to hire the best coordinators and assistant coaches available. Marrone has no head-coaching experience in the NFL, and that transition will go smoother with veteran assistants.

The Bills have quality talent on both sides of the football. Buffalo tailback C.J. Spiller is one of the more dynamic players in the NFL and must be used properly in 2013. Buffalo’s next offensive coordinator must make Spiller the focal point.

The Bills’ defense underachieved this past season but has talented players such as Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Stephon Gilmore. Buffalo needs a defensive coordinator who can maximize its talent.
The first day of 2013 will mark a major change within the Buffalo Bills organization.

ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson will relinquish control of the team and promote Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon to team president. Brandon has worked for the Bills since 1997, including the previous three years as COO.

The Bills will hold a noon press conference to announce the news.

Wilson's age (94) and health concerns factored into this decision. This week Wilson had to go through another head coaching change after firing Chan Gailey on Monday. With the coaching decision complete and a new 10-year stadium lease in tow, Wilson is content to officially hand over the reigns.

Brandon now will take over the daily operations in Buffalo and make the key decisions. His first order of business will be finding a new head coach. The Bills (6-10) are in the market for their third head coach in the past five seasons.

Bills planting a cleat firmly in Canada

June, 23, 2011
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The Buffalo Bills are living in the moment.

Los Angeles developers are stalking an NFL team for relocation, their owner is 92 years old and reports about the latest labor negotiations indicate small-market teams could have a tougher time competing in the new NFL economy.

Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon claimed they can't afford to worry about the long-term future of the franchise. He said Thursday afternoon "we focus on the here and now."

But it's rather evident by his words the Bills are simultaneously concerned with here and there, straddling the U.S.-Canadian border.

"Regionalization works," Brandon said, "and it will be a linchpin to everything that we do from a business standpoint moving forward."

A news conference to discuss Friday night's unveiling of the Bills new uniform inevitably turned toward this week's lockout talks and how the club could be impacted by the next collective bargaining agreement.

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton has reported the latest proposal framework includes mechanisms that require teams to spend almost all the way to the salary cap in current player payroll. That would make it tougher for the Bills to maintain the profitability it's used to.

Under the previous CBA, teams could spend just under 90 percent to the ceiling in cap figures, which could include dead money being paid to players no longer on the roster.

"I think the response is we just focus here and we focus now on everything that we can control, and that's keeping this building full, keeping all of our business platforms full," Brandon said. "We're a volume business. We're a very affordable business, as you know here with our ticket prices, and that's what we focus on.

"My job and everyone's job in this organization is to focus on this organization and our fans and that’s really what we do on a day-in and day-out basis."

Brandon declined to discuss specifics of the latest CBA proposal, but it wasn't difficult to gather the Bills' viability depends on Canadian interests.

The Bills have been forced to get creative over the past dozen years or so. Brandon said their attempts to regionalize the club have paid off. They moved training camp to St. John Fisher College in the Rochester area in 2000.

The Bills sold off five regular-season and three preseason games to Toronto for $78 million, the annual series running from 2008 through 2012.

Both agreements are likely to continue. Brandon said the Bills' season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since they began playing games in Toronto.

"When you look at it from our standpoint we're always looking to do everything in our power to keep this team viable," Brandon said Thursday, "and as you've heard many times from me: regionalization, regionalization and regionalization.

"When you look at our region of totality it's a very large market, and we're looking to bring fans back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. It's been a very successful venture for us and we're going to continue that process moving forward."

Brandon's comments concurred with sentiments expressed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a conference call with Bills season-ticket holders last month.

"We certainly hope the Buffalo Bills continue to be in Western New York," said Goodell, a native of nearby Jamestown, N.Y. "As a Western New York guy, I know how important it is to that region and how passionate our fans are there.

"The effort we've been going through with the Buffalo Bills and I would call the business leaders in the surrounding areas is to regionalize the team and to draw from a broader area, including Southern Ontario and the Toronto area. I believe that'll be good for the Bills to be successful in Buffalo."

Bills fans ought to get used to sharing. It would be better than waving.

Bills draft record not as bad as you think

April, 21, 2011
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Kyle Williams and Steve JohnsonUS PresswirePro Bowler Kyle Williams (left) and receiver Steve Johnson were both drafted in the later rounds.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills fans have pondered some persistent questions over the years.

How would life have changed if Scott Norwood made that kick?

What will happen to the team when Ralph Wilson passes away?

Was the Music City Miracle really a forward lateral?

How on earth does Tom Modrak still have a job?

Modrak is Buffalo's vice president of college scouting. Modrak, formerly a Pittsburgh Steelers scout during their Steel Curtain years and director of football operations with the Philadelphia Eagles, has held the Bills' top scouting job since May 2001 and worked his first draft for them in 2002.

In that time, the Bills' streak of seasons without a playoff appearance has extended to 11 and counting. Despite holding prime draft-order slots, they have repeatedly squandered them with maddening first-round decisions.

The list is enough to make the most optimistic Bills fan groan: pass-rusher Aaron Maybin (zero sacks) 11th overall instead of Brian Orakpo (19.5 sacks) two years ago; small-school cornerback Leodis McKelvin 11th overall instead of Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady in 2008; safety Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in 2006 and then trading up for defensive tackle John McCargo; trading up for quarterback J.P. Losman in 2004; useless tackle Mike Williams fifth in 2002.

"Certainly we've had our misses up at the top," Modrak said Tuesday at a news conference to preview next week's draft. "We've done pretty well in the middle and at the end, the non-glamour kind of picks. But we've missed some. That is regrettable."

There are additional selections one can criticize: wide receiver James Hardy in the second round; running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall even though the Bills had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers already ...

[+] EnlargeTom Modrak
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesDespite some high-profile misses, Tom Modrak's draftees have performed well on the whole.
OK. I'll stop now. That's enough to illustrate why there's frustration over Modrak and his scouting department's evaluation skills.

The fact Modrak joined the Bills to serve under former president Tom Donahoe -- an executive Wilson and Bills fans came to despise -- only adds to fascination of Modrak's continued employment.

Now that I've set the table, let's yank the tablecloth out from underneath the plasticware.

Draft data suggest the Bills haven't drafted much worse than the average NFL team since 2002.

ESPN researcher John Fisher -- he claims no relation to St. John Fisher, the namesake of the college where the Bills hold their training camp -- shuffled some spreadsheets and came up with some information that's not particularly damning when compared to the rest of the NFL.

  • The Bills have drafted five Pro Bowlers with Modrak in charge of scouting. That's tied for 14th in the league. One of those Pro Bowlers was Willis McGahee for the Baltimore Ravens, but Modrak was the chief scout who drafted him. What the Bills did with McGahee afterward that isn't his fault. Same goes for Marshawn Lynch.
  • Although a game started for the Bills isn't as impressive as a game started for the New England Patriots the past nine years, Bills draftees from the first through third rounds have started 804 games, 15th in the league.
  • Bills draftees from the fourth round or later have started 417 games, eighth in the league.
  • When it comes to individual statistics accumulated with the teams that drafted them, Bills taken from 2002 onward have ranked third in 1,000-yard rushing seasons, tied for seventh in 1,000-yard receiving seasons, 20th in total sacks and 19th in total interceptions.

While the Bills have missed badly on several of their prominent selections, they have done quite well in the latter part of the draft with gems such as cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Terrence McGee (fourth round in 2003), Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kyle Williams (fifth round in 2006), receiver Steve Johnson (seventh round in 2008) and left tackle Demetrius Bell (seventh round in 2008).

Top running back Fred Jackson and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters -- traded to Philly two years ago -- weren't drafted at all.

"If you look at other teams, they do it. They miss at the top," Modrak said. "When you don't win, it's magnified. It looks bad.

"But I think from a strictly homer point-of-view [late-round success] is the work and the labor that goes into it and the detail that's paid to those kinds of things. That does not say that other teams don't do the same thing, but we have a good group, and we fortunately have done that."

The Bills have had some obvious blind spots in the draft.

A refusal to pick a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002 has hurt them. Peters' success as a converted tight end is a factor in that trend, but the Bills were having contract problems with him while he still was on the roster. Foresight would've been helpful. But that's an organizational philosophy more than Modrak's domain.

The Bills' track record at tight end is miserable, too. They've drafted five: Tim Euhus, Kevin Everett, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson. Everett was the lone selection sooner than the fourth round. A broken neck while covering a kickoff on opening day in 2007 ended his career.

That tight end quintet has combined to score five NFL touchdowns. Of the 143 tight ends drafted since Modrak joined the Bills, 43 of them have scored more than five touchdowns individually.

Some might also say finding a quarterback has been a failure. Starting quarterbacks, however, aren't easy for any team to locate.

Forty-seven quarterbacks have been drafted within the first three rounds since 2002. The only three teams not included in this pursuit have been the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The Bills took two within the first three rounds, Losman 22nd overall in 2004 and Trent Edwards 92nd in 2007.

That league-wide group yielded nine Pro Bowlers, but just two of them -- 24th overall pick Aaron Rodgers and third-rounder Matt Schaub -- weren't selected in the top 11. Rodgers and Schaub served as backups for three seasons before they became starters.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix explained that scouting is only one of three critical phases that determine whether a draft pick explodes or fizzles.

"You've got to pick the right guy," Nix said Tuesday. "He's got to have enough athletic ability and enough intelligence, production to do the job, which is what you spend the year doing. We're scouts and personnel guys.

"The second phase, now -- and don't make light of it because it's just as important -- is coaching, strength coaches, trainers. That's the second phase, and both of those things have to be in place. If not, the development of the guy is retarded.

"I'm not going to name teams, but you can name teams every year that get top guys and they don't get any better. They actually may go the other way, and it's the developmental part."

Chan Gailey is Buffalo's fourth head coach -- fifth if you count interim coach Perry Fewell -- since Modrak came aboard. Coordinators have passed through a revolving door. The Bills also have overhauled their strength and conditioning program a couple times.

Nix then stressed that even if the precisely correct draft choice is made and the proper infrastructure is in place, a third phase still can torpedo development. The player can ruin his future if he's "not willing to be a professional and do everything it takes."

"You can go back and look at the so-called busts, and it's one of these three phases," Nix said. "You've got to have it all for them to be really good.

"So even though we put it all on one thing -- 'That was a terrible draft. That was a bust. Those idiots don't know.' -- that's just about a third of it."

Another element that must be considered when discussing Buffalo drafts is the question of who makes the final pick.

Nix and Gailey have been clear Nix makes the final call, although Wilson still can exercise his ownership privilege.

Before Nix became GM last year, trying to decipher who was to credit or blame for a Bills draft choice was like a "Three Stooges" scene. The irate boss hears a commotion, storms into the room and asks "Say! What's the wise idea? Who did this?" Moe pointed at Larry. Curly pointed at Moe. Larry pointed at Curly.

Modrak has been a constant since 2002, but there have been many voices in the Bills' draft room in that period, from Donahoe to GM Marv Levy to chief operating officer Russ Brandon to the various opinionated head coaches who lobbied for prospects they hotly desired.

The Bills' scouting department clearly needs to step its game up to help turn around the franchise. They'll never be the kind of team that lures top free agents because of their market conditions. Buffalo simply isn't as sexy as Miami or San Diego or New York and doesn't offer a perennial chance to win like New England or Pittsburgh does.

But, believe it or not, the Bills' drafts could have been substantially worse since Modrak arrived.

Newton in Buffalo; Ponder, Gabbert next

March, 28, 2011
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BUFFALO -- Cam Newton is in town to meet with the Buffalo Bills, but not before general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey spoke at a "State of the Bills" event for season-ticket holders at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

Nix revealed that the Bills will host Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at One Bills Drive. No other quarterbacks have been scheduled, but Nix did say they've accounted for only 25 of their 30 allowable on-campus meetings.

"We might bring in a couple more," Nix said.

Nix admitted quarterback wasn't Buffalo's greatest need because they have reliable veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even so, that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a monster payoff to picking up a future star.

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Paul Abell/US PresswireAuburn quarterback Cameron Newton will be a consideration for the Bills, who hold the No. 3 overall pick in April.
"I think we've got a lot of needs," Nix told reporters after addressing the fans. "Let me just say this to you -- and try not to read anything into this and try not to connect the dots, now -- but if you wait until you do not have a quarterback to draft one, you're too late.

"Now our greatest need is not quarterback. It's definitely not quarterback. Invariably, if there's going to be a franchise guy there and one we deem as a guy that can go eight or 10 years, be the face of the organization and take us to the playoffs and win every year, you can't pass him up."

Gailey said he will be completely frank about Buffalo's quarterback situation when he speaks with Newton on Monday night and Tuesday. The visit will begin with a physical and then include meetings with the Bills' staff.

"I lay everything on the table with guys when they walk in here," Gailey said. "I try to get them to understand exactly who we are, what we're about, where we're going and how we plan to get there. And if we end up working together, this is how they might fit into the scheme and into the system."

The Bills also met with Newton at the NFL scouting combine in late February and had dinner with him the night before his March 8 pro day at Auburn.

Other notes from Monday night's event:

  • Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon said new season tickets and renews were selling better than at this time last year.
  • Brandon reaffirmed the team's commitment to playing games in Toronto, stating their season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since the Bills started playing games there in 2008. The Bills are making $78 million off the series, which runs through 2012. Brandon suggested the Bills would be interested in extending after it expires.
  • Brandon conceded if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been hammered out by late June or July, then training camp at St. John Fisher College "could be in peril" because of the "operational and logistical" elements that must be addressed ahead of time.
  • Nix on talking about the draft at this time of year: "I want to make one thing clear. There's an unwritten rule that it's not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft stuff. Everybody does it. It's accepted. So everything you hear or read or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it's the truth."
  • Gailey on how he views himself: "I'm not very flamboyant. That's just not me. I'm not a comedian. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a philosopher. I just coach football. I want to coach your football team and get us to where we want to be, and that's be champions again and have things rocking and rolling out at Ralph Wilson Stadium."
  • Nix was pleased with in-season additions of offensive linemen Erik Pears, Mansfield Wrotto, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart. Nix said Pears, a two-year starter for the Denver Broncos, could be the Bills' next right tackle, but added, "We also need another tackle. We need a tackle through the draft or through free agency -- if and when that happens."
  • Gailey reiterated the Bills will play a hybrid defense rather than a straight 3-4 or a 4-3. Nix noted his scouting department is focused on 3-4 players, but will not dismiss a player simply because he's not a perfect fit.
  • Nix will attend North Carolina's pro day Thursday to see defensive end Robert Quinn and Clemson's pro day Friday to check out defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who reportedly has failed physicals because he hasn't recovered enough from knee surgery.
  • Nix on Bowers' workout: "It's big for him. I'm not sure that you'd write him off if he's not completely healthy Friday. But it's time for him to show he either is healthy or that he needs more work and more time."

WWII Museum honors Ralph Wilson

March, 21, 2011
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NEW ORLEANS -- Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson was honored Monday night with one of five American Spirit Awards from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Also honored at an event to coincide with the annual NFL meetings here were Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford and San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos.

Wilson, 92, enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Wilson is not in attendance for the NFL owners meeting. He's represented by a contingent that includes chief operating officer Russ Brandon, executive vice president Mary Owen, treasurer Jeff Littmann, senior vice president Jim Overdorf, general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Monday the WWII Museum is kicking off a program that showcases how the NFL and football aided the war effort through selling bonds and donating gate revenues from exhibition games.

Bills release their statement on labor woes

March, 14, 2011
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Buffalo Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon has joined the list of NFL executives releasing statements about the NFL labor situation:
"We share our fans' disappointment with the news on Friday that the NFLPA has filed for decertification and a work stoppage has begun. We remain hopeful that a new and fair agreement can be reached in time to avoid any significant disruption to our preparations for the 2011 season. We believe that the quickest way to a fair agreement for everyone -- players, teams and fans -- is through negotiations facilitated by the mediator and not through litigation.

"As an organization, winning a championship continues to be our No. 1 goal. Under the direction of general manager Buddy Nix, our entire football staff is hard at work, preparing for the upcoming 2011 NFL draft, where we have the third overall selection. Coach [Chan] Gailey and his staff are also hard at work, preparing for when our team returns to the field. Concurrently, the administrative departments continue to work diligently on the day-to-day business operations in preparation for the season. ...

"We certainly appreciate the support and patience of our fans and we look forward to presenting a full season of exciting Buffalo Bills football in 2011."

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 7, 2010
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NFC Approach: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft approach.

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo's draft decision-makers have changed and morphed so often over the past decade there's no track record to suggest their strategy this year. Buddy Nix has been influential in past Bills' drafts, but this is his first go-round as general manager. We're not sure how much input new assistant GM Doug Whaley or new head coach Chan Gailey will have. But the front office is exuding a sense of direction it hasn't had in years. In their previous four drafts, nobody really knew who made the decisions and nobody would admit it. Former head coach Dick Jauron, top college scout Tom Modrak, former pro personnel director John Guy and former chief operating officer/GM Russ Brandon all were involved, but to what degree? Of that muddled group, only Modrak remains in his role.

Miami Dolphins

Maybe they're ready to loosen up now that a foundation has been established, but the Dolphins' modus operandi was pretty simple for the first two years under football operations czar Bill Parcells. They were coming off a 1-15 season and needed to be rebuilt carefully. Parcells, general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano set out to make the safest picks. Because left tackles are surer things than quarterbacks, the Dolphins chose left tackle Jake Long first overall in 2008 and not Matt Ryan, for instance. Then the Dolphins came back in the second round for quarterback Chad Henne. In the first three rounds of the past two drafts, the Dolphins drafted a left tackle, two quarterbacks, two cornerbacks, two defensive ends and a wide receiver.

New England Patriots

Perhaps no club drafts with value in mind more than the Patriots do. Unlike the Jets, who'd rather shoot up in the order, the Patriots are more content to backpedal and collect more picks. In last year's draft, they started out with the 23rd selection, backed up to 26th and eventually ended up with the 41st, 73rd and 83rd. Dissatisfied with the talent pool and reluctant to invest first-round money in anybody on the draft board, the Patriots traded out of the first round completely and took four players in the second. The Patriots have an embarrassment of bargaining chips this year. New England is the only team with four choices in the first two rounds and already holds two selections in the 2011 first round. New England also led the league in compensatory picks, but those cannot be traded.

New York Jets

The Jets own the 29th selection of the draft, but it would be a stunner if they actually pick there. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is intrepid when it comes to making trades, famously moving up to nab cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris, quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene within the past three drafts. Tannenbaum, however, might abandon the maverick approach this spring. The Jets have traded away so many draft choices, they need to replenish their depth for developmental purposes. That could mean moving back into the second round to collect more picks, or, at the very least, holding onto the ones they have. But if presented another chance to pounce, it'll be interesting to see if Tannenbaum succumbs to temptation.

Bills GM Nix defends Gailey hire

January, 19, 2010
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix got ornery while defending the club's search for a head coach and the decision to hire Chan Gailey.

At Tuesday afternoon's introductory news conference, Nix explained how Gailey fit the criteria: head coaching experience, an offensive mind with a track record of developing quarterbacks and character.

Nix then stiffarmed criticism of the hire after a two-month hunt that included several rejections along the way.

"I want you to know, with all due respect, I don't care," Nix said. "It don't bother me. I mean, everybody's got an opinion. You guys got a job to do, and I'm trying not to make it difficult.

"But my job is to get us the best guy to help us win games. And we found that guy. This guy met more of the criteria that I ever hoped we'd find. This guy's won everywhere he's been."

As much as Nix tried to make it seem like he was the natural selection, Gailey acknowledged he wasn't first choice for what Rochester Democrat & Chronicle columnist Leo Roth called "the Siberia of the NFL."

"I can't speak for other folks," Gailey replied, "but, shoot, you look at the history of the Buffalo Bills, and I've come in that stadium enough times to know about the fans of the Bills Nation. Who wouldn't want to come here?

"Maybe some guys had some personal reasons they didn't want to come here. Great! I'm glad because I get to come here."

Neither Bills owner Ralph Wilson nor chief executive officer Russ Brandon attended the news conference. That left Nix to address all the snubs. Nix claimed 80 percent of the reports were inaccurate but refused to go on the record about who specifically did or did not decline interview requests or reported offers.

Gailey has waited 11 years to become an NFL head coach again. He guided the Dallas Cowboys in 1998 and 1999. Only Art Shell and Joe Gibbs waited longer -- a dozen years apiece -- in between head-coaching gigs since 1980.

Gailey didn't coach in 2009. Kansas City Chiefs rookie head coach Todd Haley fired him as offensive coordinator right before the season started.

"I can't say anything to change anybody's mind," Gailey said. "All I can do is go try and help us win football games. If we win football games, everybody's mind will be changed, right? That's what'll happen.

"I will say this, there's been a lot of sixth- and seventh-round draft choices that have become Pro Bowlers. It's what you do with the opportunity when you get it."

Gailey clearly was referring to himself as that late-round draft pick, essentially embracing his status as a perceived underdog.

He's back in the NFL and in charge of his own team, one of only 32 in the world.

"I'm trying not to exaggerate, but we got 15 calls a day, begging for an interview and wanting this job," Nix said. "I could've hired 35 or 40 the first week. And you would be shocked at some of the names.

"Trust me, it's a good job. Don't ever think you can't fill coaching jobs even if they're bad. Oakland gets a lot of calls."

Buffalo coaching search on hold

December, 29, 2009
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A pair of insightful blogs have been posted about the Buffalo Bills' approach to finding their next head coach.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan writes the Bills will not hire a coach until they bring in a legitimate general manager. The Bills have operated without a traditional GM or football operations boss, choosing instead to let team president Russ Brandon, who has a marketing background, handle the role.

NFL Network reporter Jason La Canfora, citing an unnamed source, provides an update on the coaching search: There really hasn't been one yet.

La Canfora reports since the Bills interviewed Mike Shanahan and were snubbed by Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher, the club has decided to sit back and wait.

From La Canfora's blog:

According to the source, a resolution is "a long, long ways away," and the franchise is at the start of what will be a "very thorough process." As expected all along, the Bills could look to several emerging coordinators, though there are few options on the offensive side of the ball. Buffalo would like to install an offensive-minded coach and explosive system, if possible, and is looking for someone who can identify and develop a franchise quarterback -- which is why Holmgren, Shanahan and Gruden were so appealing.

Buffalo television station WIVB reported Monday night the Bills had reached out to former Notre Dame head coach and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis through "back channels."

What's next for Bills after Shanahan?

November, 25, 2009
11/25/09
1:53
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ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Buffalo Bills met with coaching candidate Mike Shanahan for seven hours Monday night and Tuesday morning in Denver.

The report suggests Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon interviewed for Shanahan rather than vice versa.

"We had an excellent meeting," Shanahan told Schefter on Wednesday. "I was really impressed with Russ Brandon and everything he had to say. We're going to stay in touch and see what develops."

The Bills are expected to take their time in making a hire and will interview several more candidates before they find the permanent replacement for Dick Jauron, who was fired last week and replaced with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on an interim basis.

Almost all of the top-tier candidates have rebuffed the Bills' attempts to talk about the job. Substantive reports have stated Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren have turned them down.

The next wave of candidates might include the likes of Brian Billick, Jim Fassel, Mike Martz and Jim Haslett, but the Bills seem hot for an offensive-minded coach, which could work against Haslett, a former Bills linebacker.

Billick had an 80-64 career record and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. Defense was the foundation of those Ravens teams, but Billick is a lifelong offensive coach who had a star quarterback only once in his nine seasons there. Billick won 13 games with Steve McNair in 2006.

Fassel went 58-53 as head coach of the New York Giants and won an NFC title. Bills fans might note some similarities between their team and the one Fassel took over in 1997. The Giants went 6-10 the year before, but Fassel guided them to a 10-5-1 record and the NFC East championship with Danny Kannel and Dave Brown as his quarterbacks.

Martz coached The Greatest Show on Turf with the St. Louis Rams for six seasons. He went 53-32 and won an NFC title. His offense ranked No. 1 in the NFL in 2000 and 2001 with such stars as Kurt Warner, Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk.

Another offensive-oriented coach who has been mentioned is longtime NFL offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who has been tearing up the Canadian Football League as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.

But one major hang-ups the Bills will have is their quarterback situation. They have no obvious starting quarterback on their roster. The organization apparently has given up on Trent Edwards, and Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't held in high regard. Newly acquired third-stringer Brian Brohm is a project.

Many coaches' names will be associated with the opening. Expect some surprises along the way.

Root of Buffalo's problem easy to tackle

November, 19, 2009
11/19/09
8:53
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There was one specific problem that doomed Dick Jauron with the Buffalo Bills.

It wasn't installing the no-huddle offense. It wasn't signing Terrell Owens. It wasn't firing the offensive coordinator 10 days before the regular-season opener. It wasn't Leodis McKelvin's fumble or Roscoe Parrish's bobble.

[+] EnlargeDick Jauron
David Butler II/US PresswireProblems at offensive tackle helped lead to Dick Jauron's demise in Buffalo.
What sunk Jauron and led to his dismissal Tuesday can be directly attributed to the Bills' organizational approach at offensive tackle. Jauron certainly had a voice in how they handled it, but vice president of pro personnel John Guy had input and chief operating officer Russ Brandon signed off on it.

Fitting that Jauron was fired the same week "The Blind Side," a major motion picture about the life of Baltimore Ravens rookie tackle Michael Oher, will hit theaters.

The movie is based on the book by Michael Lewis, author of "Moneyball." Oher was the central character in Lewis' book, but the real subject of "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" was about how left tackle had evolved into the second most important position in football.

The problem in Buffalo is that they don't have a tackle. Or they've had too many. Either way, it has been a disaster.

What follows is a timeline of how the Bills went from having a respectable pair of tackles to the most abominable group in the NFL.

April 17: Unable or unwilling to negotiate a contract extension, the Bills trade two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles for draft picks.

April 25 and 26: Bills decline to select a tackle in the 2009 draft.

April 26: I asked Jauron what the Bills intend to do at tackle.

"We went into the draft having discussed that after the trade of Jason, saying 'Do we feel like we have to have a tackle?' And I think we all agreed ... we're not going to stray far from our grades just to take a tackle," Jauron said.

"We felt like we have guys that can play there. So there's no sense in passing up a guy we think is significantly better at another position just to feel like we've plugged a number in. We weren't going to do that."

Shortly after the draft: Jauron informs right tackle Langston Walker they are moving him to left tackle and right guard Brad Butler they are switching him to right tackle.

May 14: Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson observes "Buffalo might have the worst offensive tackles in the NFL."

Aug. 28: A team source tells me Demetrius Bell, despite a back injury, has overtaken Walker as the Bills' left tackle of choice. Bell is entering his second year and hasn't played in an NFL game.

Sept. 5: Bills cut tackle Kirk Chambers, who started four games in 2008.

Sept. 8: Bills cut Walker, re-sign Chambers. Jauron is asked if he overestimated Walker's ability.

"Probably," Jauron replies. "We clearly felt we could move him in, and he'd do the job. He just wasn't playing up to our expectations. So we felt like it was time to make that move."

Sept. 14: Bills start the season with Bell at left tackle and Butler at right tackle. Their entire opening-night offensive line has 47 career starts among them.

Sept. 20: Butler suffers a season-ending knee injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sept. 22: Rather than pursue veteran help such as Jon Runyan or Damion McIntosh, the Bills pluck rookie tackle Jamon Meredith off Green Bay Packers' practice squad.

Sept. 27: Jonathan Scott starts for Butler at right tackle against the New Orleans Saints. It's Scott's seventh career start in four seasons. ... Bell suffers a groin injury.

Oct. 4: Chambers, inactive the two previous games, starts at right tackle against the Miami Dolphins and gives up 2.5 sacks to first-year outside linebacker Cameron Wake. ... Scott starts at left tackle for Bell.

Oct. 18: Meredith makes his first NFL start at right tackle against the New York Jets.

Nov. 1: Meredith suffers a knee injury against the Houston Texans.

Nov. 15: Bell suffers a right knee injury against the Tennessee Titans. Rookie guard Andy Levitre finishes the game at left tackle.

Nov. 16: Through Week 10, Bell is the NFL's most penalized player regardless of position.

Nov. 17: Bills fire Jauron, name defensive coordinator Perry Fewell interim head coach.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Based on the text messages that lit up my cell phone Monday night after the Buffalo Bills' retching 25-24 loss to the New England Patriots, I knew Leodis McKelvin wasn't going to be a popular man in Western New York this week.

But never would I have thought some Bills zealots would make it personal.
Elsa/Getty Images
Some Bills fans went too far in reaction to Leodis McKelvin’s fumble.

The Buffalo News and the Associated Press report vandals left a message on the front lawn of McKelvin's home in suburban Hamburg, N.Y., because he committed a crucial turnover in the final two minutes to help the Patriots pull off a stunning comeback victory.

As someone who has covered sports in Buffalo for almost a decade and is moving back to the area because of the people, I can state that Bills fans are some of the most respectful and passionate supporters I've ever encountered.

This is a region that chanted "We love Scott! We love Scott!" the day after Scott Norwood missed the field goal that would have won the Super Bowl.

"I've got to tell you right now that we're struggling with this right now," Norwood said, fighting through tears at City Hall in January 1991. "I know I've never felt more loved than this right now.

"We all realize the sun's going to come up tomorrow."

McKelvin's not feeling the love these days.

But McKelvin manned up after the game and faced reporters -- unlike Terrell Owens. Several teammates and Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon buoyed McKelvin with forgiving embraces in the locker room.

But one or more mental midgets used white paint to spell out the game's final score and draw, according to the Buffalo News, "a graphic depiction of the male anatomy."

Ho ho! They sure zinged him!

It was a scene straight out of "All the Right Moves," when Coach Nickerson had his yard vandalized by the townies after a tough loss.

Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell tweeted: "Its def not a game to b playin. W/ all the safety issues n the NFL its not funny at all. We have Fam at our homes to protect. If u show ur face on my prop Ill make sure I do everythin to keep my Fam safe."

Way to go, morons. Now you have players firing off warning shots.

This type of attention is not what the Bills needed. They've missed the playoffs nine years running, have gone 7-9 three straight seasons and are known for running their team on the cheap. Now people outside the area will think their fans are kooks.

What a marketing brochure that would be for prospective free agents.

The thing is, Buffalo's diehards have been the team's greatest selling point. The club sold 55,000 season tickets this year despite all the futility. Fans traveled to Canton in droves to see owner Ralph Wilson and defensive end Bruce Smith inducted last month.

The mark this incident leaves on the fan base will last much longer than whatever was on McKelvin's lawn.

But whoever perpetrated the sophomoric crime probably was stupid enough to brag about it. Here's hoping they get caught and receive the best punishment I can think of: having their pictures put on television so they can be humiliated in a very public way.

Maybe then they'll understand what it's like to make a mistake on national television.

As for the rest of Buffalo's fans, I have faith in them.

I'd love to see the Bills introduce their defense before Sunday's home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to give the sellout crowd a chance to make amends.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
 Peters

The Buffalo Bills are raising the white flag on Jason Peters.

Three days after Buffalo Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon said he expected Peters to remain on the team, the Bills are close to trading him to the Philadelphia Eagles.

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and John Clayton report Peters has been summoned to Philadelphia to meet with the Eagles front office. The Eagles have 12 picks, including two first-rounders, in next weekend's draft.

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